Late Bloomer or Language Delay?
Hey mommas! I’m Dana, your resident Speech-Language Pathologist here on Momma Society. I hope you have enjoyed learning about your baby’s language development from birth to 12 months in “Everything You Need To Know About Baby Language Development” and what’s important for language development for your toddler in “Everything You Need To Know About Toddler Language Development”. The development of speech and language is an intricate process that is unique to each individual language learner. All children go through the same stages as their speech and language develops however, not always at the same time as their peers.
Your child’s speech and language development relies on many factors including: his or her natural ability to learn language, their exposure to language by family and other care providers as well as care providers response to the child’s utterances or actions and the concurrent development of other emerging skills. Because of the natural variations among children in language development, it can often be difficult to distinguish when a child is experiencing normal differences in the Speech-Language development process from when they may be presenting with a speech and/or language delay or disorder. Well, don’t fret momma! I have put together some tips for recognizing speech-language development concerns rather than developmental differences along with recommendations for what to do when you suspect an issue. It should be noted that without consulting a Speech-Language Pathologist directly, your child cannot be diagnosed with or free from any Speech-Language issues. When in doubt, always seek guidance of professionals if you are concerned your child may be displaying Speech-Language issues. That brings me to tip number one.
Trust your Momma Gut!
You are momma! It is likely that you know your child better than most anyone, and may spend the most time with them as well! It may be difficult for parents to gauge whether what they are seeing in their child’s language is a variant of typical language development or if there are red flags being raised. If you recognize differences in your child’s speech or language development, you may feel inclined to seek advice from your favorite Facebook moms group, consult the “Google gods”, reach out to friends and relatives or even ask your doctor for advice. You’ll likely get a variety of answers such as, “She is still young, she will outgrow it.”, “Don’t worry so much.” or “Watch and see what happens in the next few months.” They could most definitely be right but what if they aren’t? Chances are, that pesky mom gut may be telling you something doesn’t quite fit. Worrying about what to do, how to help or making the wrong decision to wait can be stressful. So what can you do? How do you know for sure? Unfortunately, in many cases you won’t know for sure, at least not right away. What you CAN do is go with your gut and seek advisement from an SLP if you suspect an issue with your child’s speech and/or language.
Write it Down!
As a mother myself, I can not tell you how many times my boys have said or done something adorable, hilarious or heartfelt that I want to remember forever. At times I think to myself, “There is no way I will ever forget that!” only to be surprised when I attempt to recall the details of what they did in recount to their dad only a few hours later and cannot quite remember EXACTLY what happened. We are busy, we are multitasksers, and sometimes our brains only hold so much! If you are observing things about your child’s speech or language that you find concerning, write them down and keep record of the potential issues you are observing. It is SO helpful in recognizing patterns in your child’s speech and language and can be a wealth of information for a Speech-Language Pathologist who may later assess your child.
Know the Risk Factors!
It is common that parents begin to notice language differences in their children between the ages of 18 and 30 months. If your kiddo is in this age range and is not currently talking as much or as well as you would expect them to be, keep in mind the following risk factors when considering the assistance of an SLP:
How well does my child understand what is spoken to him/her? Babies are sponges! Children typically understand a vast amount of words/phases spoken to them before they themselves begin producing spoken language. What your child understands from spoken language is called their receptive language. From around 12 months of age (again some kiddos will be faster or slower learners) your child may be able to point to objects when you name them and follow simple directions. If it appears that your child seems to understand well for his or her age, they are more likely to catch up with what they say, or what is known as their expressive language. If it appears as though your child is demonstrating difficulty understanding what others say, it is possible they may have a language delay.
How often is my child using their body language or gestures to communicate? Some of the cutest little gestures you will see from your child before they begin to expand their expressive language is waving “hi” or “bye,” and putting his arms up so you will pick him up, blowing kisses or pointing to desired items. The more gestures your child uses, the more likely it is that they will catch up to other children his age.
How often is my child learning and using new words? Some children are slower learners, however it is hopeful that your little guy or gal is attempting to use new words each month. As time goes on, they may start putting some words together or use words to ask questions. If your child does this, he or she is more likely to catch up and not have a delay.
When and How to Seek Help
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When in doubt, TRUST YOUR GUT! Your mother might tell you, “Eh, he’s fine! Don’t worry so much.” Your best friend might say, “Yeah, Billy was a late talker too and now I can’t get him to stop chattering!” your doctor might say, “Let’s give him a year and see what happens.” YOU ARE MOMMA! If you suspect an issue, you DO NOT have to wait to see if it corrects itself. If you are worried, please don’t waste time in wondering when and if your kiddo will catch up. If you are concerned, please seek the assistance of a Speech-Language Pathologist in addressing your concerns and your child’s language development. An SLP will inquire about your concerns and assess your child’s receptive and expressive language and come up with a plan to address any possible speech/language delays and/or disorders. During your meeting your Speech-Language Pathologist may do the following based on what they observe in your child’s speech and/or language:
Recommend that you come back for further assessment in a few months if concerns about your child’s speech/language are still present.
If your child is demonstrating any delays or disorders, an SLP may recommend working with an early intervention program to address their current speech/language needs.
Recognize typical variants in your child’s speech and/or language and alleviate any concerns you may have about your child’s speech/language development.